The Tragedy of Tokenism

Flickr: Pixeloflight


Mike Riggs, one of my favorite reporters in D.C., wrote this amazing piece for the Daily Caller about Tokenism after reading a New York magazine profile of Marty Peretz, “editor of the New Republic and eater of his own foot”:

I have a soft spot for tokenism, which is what Peretz is invoking when he says he knows Muslims and black people. Not because I approve of it (I don’t), but because it took me a long time to figure out how tragic it is.

I was the first person in my family, which traces its southern lineage to the Civil War, to date someone who is not white. M had long, straight, jet-black hair, brown skin, curves, and she sometimes rolled her Rs. After she met my dad and stepmom, and nothing seemed amiss, I figured that my family cared more about culture than color.

In other words, It didn’t matter in the least that M was Peruvian because she acted like a South Florida WASP.

Then one day, while lying on my bed, M told me that she was Jewish.

I strongly encourage you to read the rest of the story; Mike describes what happened when M encountered his family and he met hers. Then, he signs off with this walloping paragraph:

This is what is so tricky about tokenism: You do not have to be a liberal to know that there is something gross about listing human beings as if they were items on a grocery list. And you do not have to be a bigot to believe, or hope, that knowing and loving and associating with people who are different than you matters for something, and that those associations can improve and redeem you.